Last week, we talked about how brutal it is when Top Chef producers make the contestants cook outside. Battling bad weather and a lack of equipment always leads to some bad dishes, but if you were to ask the players what wrinkles they like least, I’m confident they most despise any challenge that involves trading food. Throw them outside. Take away their knives. Do damn near whatever you want. Just let them finish their own dish.

This week’s quickfire was a game of musical chairs. Our players were asked to start a dish, but periodically, they were forced to move to a different station. It was a really complicated game of musical chairs, and thanks to the inadequacies of certain players and the general confusion with trying to interpret what someone else was doing, there were more than a few complete disasters. Luckily, however, there were a few successes, as well, most notably Carlos, Patty and Brian, the last of whom was awarded the victory.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs were allowed to divide themselves into teams with the aim of creating a four person menu for a potluck hosted by musician Kermit Ruffins. After a fairly simple conversation, the players naturally broke into three groups: 1) Nina, Carrie, Stephanie and Carlos, 2) Patty, Brian, Travis and Nicholas and 3) Shirley, Justin, Louis and Sara.

Ordinarily, these sorts of things are blowouts, but this time around, the results were actually pretty close with every team offering up a pretty good menu with a few random misses. In the end, Nina, Carrie, Stephanie and Carlos were able to narrowly edge out the competition, with Stephanie’s artichoke dish taking the win.

On the other end of the spectrum, team Patty, Brian, Travis and Nicholas made just a few too many mistakes. Brian’s fried chicken was universally given a thumbs up, but Patty’s watermelon salad was a little too simple, Travis’ spicy ribs were given a little too much rub and Nicholas’ fish was on the bland side. Any of those mistakes could have sent the particular competitor home, but after some debate, Patty was told to pack her knives and go.

The Top Chef Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Rawden and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Nineteen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, nine were given for a last place vote. Eight competitors have already been eliminated; therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.


The Favorites
#1) Nina Compton (38): Dubbed the gnocchi queen by the judges, Nina added some more stellar statistics to her resume this week, landing in the top alongside her team and without question finishing second overall for her pasta dish. At this point, it would be a shock if she didn’t end up in the finals.

#2) Shirley Chung (36): Poor Shirley looked like she was about to have a panic attack when the judges told her that the beef was overcooked. She was visibly shaking, but fortunately for her, it clearly wasn’t that bad. Her team ended up in the middle, and her streak of never being on the bottom continued. For her sake, I hope it stays that way throughout the rest of the competition.

#3) Justin Devillier (33): It wasn’t really Justin’s week. He landed in the quickfire bottom two, thanks to ending on a station that featured tofu, a microwave and some couscous Patty had already messed up. Then, his hominy dish also lacked in excitement, with the guests and guest judges stating it lacked a New Orleans flair—an insult, since he is a NOLA chef. Still, Justin has proved he’s a strong competitor thus far. Hopefully this slump will be brief and he can get back to cooking the dishes we know he’s capable of.

#3) Carlos Gaytan (33): I love slyly confident Carlos so much better than that awkward and nervous bum who hung out the first handful of episodes. Over the past few weeks, the highly acclaimed chef seems to have finally found his groove. He was on the top during both the quickfire and the elimination challenge, and there’s no reason to think his trajectory won’t continue skyward.

#5) Carrie Mashaney (30): Carrie’s tiramisu wasn’t embraced that warmly by the judges. In fact, if her team had ended up on the bottom, she most certainly would have gone home. Considering this isn’t top pastry chef, however, she deserves a free pass and maybe just a slight little lecture. The Midwestern girl came out of the gates roaring at the beginning of the season, but she’s cooled off quite a bit. She needs to get back to cooking her food and making bold choices.

The Contenders
#6) Stephanie Cmar (27): Stephanie was this week’s big winner, and judging by the look of overwhelmed euphoria on her face when she was announced, it seems like she got the nod just in time. She clearly has a lot of talent. She’s clearly one of the better players. With another week or two like this, she could vault from being the best of the pretty good chefs to a legitimate contender to win the whole shebang.

#7) Brian Huskey (26): Apart from his quickfire win, which was the first time he’s taken home those honors, this week was very Brian-ish. He made a kick ass fried chicken dish and was on the losing team. So, he had to sit in the back and listen to his teammates get reamed while the judges offered him a few nice compliments about how well the food was cooked. It’s happened to him quite a bit before, and if the trend holds, it will certainly happen again.

#8) Sara Johannes (25): As much as I love Sara’s awesome poofy hair, I’m not loving her attitude nearly as much. This week, during the quickfire musical chairs, the dish she started on ended up winning while the dish she ended on didn’t do so well. She didn’t handle it particularly well, complaining to the camera for like the eightieth time. Sara’s proven she can cook at least a couple of times, and I wish her food was defining her appearance on Top Chef rather than what comes out of her mouth.

The Dark Horses
#9) Nicholas Elmi (22): I don’t know whether to call Nicholas a rock star or an idiot this week. After bowing out of the quickfire thanks to a case of strep throat, the intrepid Nicholas came back with a fierce attitude and offered to do the prep work for most of his team, which ended up as the bottom group. He actually did a ton of work for his team while ill, so no one could say he slacked, but in doing so, he probably took too much on. Some of the prep work was sloppy and the judges hated his fish. Sans strep, maybe he’ll be able to use this newfound energy to his advantage, but we’re not holding our breaths.

#10) Louis Maldonado (20): I actually feel really bad for Louis this week. The judges raved over his pickled vegetables, and this week could have been the challenge that propelled him out of this slot in the power rankings. However, nearly everyone did well this week, and Louis’ team didn’t even manage to land in the top. He’s been confident every week, but it’s nice to see Louis actually pull some skill and innovation out of a dish (Tom actually said he’d never eaten vegetables like that before). Maybe this will prove to be the catalyst for an upward trend.

#11) Travis Masar (18): Travis was oddly close to having a great week. His spicy ribs had some great flavor. He just put a tiny bit too much rub on them. Had he cut back just a little bit and had Patty put a little more effort into her watermelon, it’s entirely possible his team would have ended up on the top. Instead, it was just another near elimination for the chef that hasn’t quite been able to put it together for more than a challenge or two here or there.


Mack:
Nina Compton (19)
Shirley Chung (18)
Justin Devillier (17)
Carlos Gaytan (16)
Carrie Mashaney (15)
Brian Huskey (14)
Stephanie Cmar (13)
Sara Johannes (12)
Nicholas Elmi (11)
Louis Maldonado (10)
Travis Masar (9)
Jessica:
Nina Compton(19)
Shirley Chung(18)
Carlos Gaytan(17)
Justin Devillier(16)
Carrie Mashaney(15)
Stephanie Cmar(14)
Sara Johannes (13)
Brian Huskey (12)
Nicholas Elmi(11)
Louis Maldonado(10)
Travis Masar(9)


Photo Credit @ Bravo

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